If you can't stand the heat... Novelli walks out on Auberge du Lac 'in a fit of petulance'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Novelli is departing from Auberge du Lac, the restaurant at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire, after "a fit of petulance" which culminated in him issuing a writ against his employers, according to the director of the hall.

He will leave the restaurant, which attracts guests from Hollywood actresses to former prime ministers to sample its haute cuisine, on Sunday, not to return.

After three years as head chef, the 44-year-old issued a statement saying that he and the management had failed to find a "mutually agreeable decision" over renewing his contract.

"I finally decided enough is enough," Novelli, who appeared in Hell's Kitchen, said.

"Sadly, I wish to announce that I will not be returning to Auberge du Lac as from 9 October, but would sincerely like to thank all my loyal staff, customers and club members for their patronage, and hope to be able to offer them my hospitality in the future. I did my best, and wish to offer Auberge du Lac, Brocket Hall and the London Capital Club all my best wishes for the future.

"I have managed to achieve the expected goal to turn Auberge around financially and put the place on the world map. I and my team are very proud that Auberge du Lac became the flagship of this international company, attracting clients such as the Beckhams, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Hollywood film stars, the Thai royal family, Adnan Khashoggi and many more."

The Frenchman said that he had not made plans to open a new restaurant "due to the sudden nature of events".

The chef said he had been obliged to issue legal proceedings against Brocket Hall for non-payment of fees.

But Andrew Hepburn, director and general manager of Brocket Hall, said: "There was a slight delay in payment of fees but they have now been paid. In a fit of petulance he decided to issue a writ. It is absurd.

"Mr Novelli's contract came to an end and after careful consideration it was our choice not to renew it. We really felt we needed a more hands-on chef - he was hardly ever here.

"We will continue with our head chef Phil Thompson, who was here prior to Mr Novelli and does a very fine job indeed."

Novelli has described himself as "spontaneous and passionate", and was once voted the world's sexiest man by The New York Times. He is good friends with Gordon Ramsay, also renowned for his fiery temper, and is godfather to one of Marco Pierre White's sons. He is known for his intensity and extremes. Earlier this year he revealed that he was a bigamist, marrying his second wife, Anzelle Visser, while he was still married to the mother of his 18-year-old daughter, Christina, who he describes as "the most beautiful thing in my life".

No charges were brought against him because it was the fault of his solicitor, who did not make the decree nisi final, but by the time he fought, and won, a long-running court battle with his first wife over money, his second marriage had broken down.

In the late 1990s, the Novelli empire grew as he created - and lost - seven restaurants. He compares working as a chef with sex, saying: "In the kitchen you use your five senses. You don't realise you're working. It's the same with making love. It's part of the balance of life."

He has been a millionaire and a bankrupt, going from the extremes of drinking four bottles of wine a day and smoking 40 cigarettes to a gruelling fitness regime. It is moderation that he confesses he finds difficult.

Novelli comes from Arras in northern France. By the age of 20, he was the private chef of Baron Elie de Rothschild in Paris. He then followed his dream and came to England, working at the renowned Chewton Glen restaurant in the New Forest.

He described his work there as a breakfast chef as the first time he had ever felt secure, and it was while working at Chewton Glenn that he met his first wife, Tina. Their marriage fell apart after eight years.

With £500 in capital, he opened his first restaurant, Maison Novelli in Clerkenwell. His rise was meteoric, as he added Novelli W8, Novelli EC1, Les Saveurs de Jean-Christophe Novelli in Mayfair, and Novelli at the Cedars in Cape Town, before going bankrupt.

On Sunday Novelli is travelling to South America to film a documentary.

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